Governor Joins AARP, Cancer Society, Diabetes Assoc. To Urge Congress to Reject Legislation

From the Office of Governor John Lynch

Governor Joins AARP, Cancer Society,Diabetes Assoc. To Urge Congress to Reject Legislation that Would Increase Health Insurance Costs, Weaken Health Care Protections
 Proposed Legislation Would Again Allow Insurance Companies to Discriminate Against Sick Workers, Older Workers

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch today joined representatives of AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and state legislators to urge Congress to reject legislation that would increase small business health insurance costs and weaken state health care protections for consumers.

The proposed federal legislation - S. 1955 - would allow insurance companies to charge dramatically higher rates for small businesses, prevent state governments from protecting consumers, and could end guarantees that health insurance companies cover certain procedures, such as cancer screenings.

The legislation would force New Hampshire to return to the days of SB 110, a recently repealed law that allowed insurance companies to discriminate against sick workers and that dramatically increased insurance rates for New Hampshire small businesses.

" New Hampshire recognized the many problems with this approach, and in 2005, we came together - Democrats and Republicans - to repeal the most onerous provisions of that law, " Gov. Lynch said. " We declared, as a matter of public policy, that insurance companies could not discriminate against sick workers. We said that insurance companies could not discriminate against companies based on geography. We said that no employer should bear a disproportionate burden to provide health insurance to his or her employees.

" Unfortunately, legislation now being considered in Congress - S. 1955 - would force New Hampshire to return to the unfair and expensive small business health insurance rating system that we just rejected. In fact, the provisions of this federal legislation would be even more harmful and discriminatory to our small businesses than those in SB 110, " Gov. Lynch said.

The federal legislation would result in result in premium variations between different companies with the same number of employees of up to 25 to 1. By comparison, New Hampshire law allows for a maximum rate variation of 3.5 to 1.

The federal legislation would also exempt small business plans from laws that ensure they provide consumers with coverage for cancer screenings, diabetes screenings, and many other vital health services.

" This bill is not a solution to our nation's health care problems. This federal legislation will only make it more difficult for New Hampshire's small businesses to continue to offer health insurance to their workers, " Gov. Lynch said.

The legislation would also limit the ability of the state to protect consumers and to regulate insurance plans.

In an April 25 letter (<http://www.naag.org/news/pdf/20060425.39-AG-Opposition-to-S1955.pdf) , 41 of the nation's Attorneys General, including New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, announced their opposition to the legislation.

" Consumers rightfully expect their state government to require a minimum of health benefit protections and to protect them from abuse by health care insurers. Elimination of strong state protections in exchange for weak federal oversight fails consumers, " the Attorneys General wrote.